If you’re an undergraduate about to enter the job market, or a postgraduate gearing up to reacquaint yourself with working life, it’s probably time to get to grips with your online presence.
Student life can leave a trail of embarrassing information online. However, it's now that social media should become less about sharing photos of your friends in night clubs and more about advertising yourself to potential employers.
A recent survey of 300 recruiters by the social media monitoring service Reppler revealed that 91% of employers use social media to screen applicants. “These days professional reputation and the standard of your CV is only three quarters of the game and your online presence makes a huge difference,” said Richard Bland, head of finance careers at the London Business School. “We encourage our students to start by Googling themselves on somebody else’s computer, so that they can review exactly what information employers can see.”
As a general rule, you should have the maximum privacy settings on Facebook. Although employers expect you to have a social life, anything that can be viewed through Google needs to be considered carefully. Just because that profile picture attracted 10 ‘likes’ doesn’t mean an employer will like it too. “The same rules apply as in an interview – first impressions count,” says Laura Jane Silverman, a careers consultant at the London School of Economics.
You should only have a public Facebook page in exceptional circumstances, according to Silverman. “If you’re an entrepreneur with a page devoted to your project, then it should be public.” Although Facebook is still predominantly for private use, it is increasingly a tool for businesses to connect with potential employees. Any business worth its salt is on Facebook and it's a good idea to ‘like’ the ones you’re interested in working for.
Twitter can be an invaluable way of demonstrating to potential employers that you have a genuine interest in what they do. Bland recommends that people follow the businesses that they’re interested in: “If you follow certain business leaders then if you meet them at interview you’ll be able to talk the talk more compellingly.”
Silverman, however, offers a word of caution: “You don’t know what the opinion of your potential employer is going to be, so be careful not to express extreme views about a financial or political subject – it may come up in interview and you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the employers at the beginning.”
It's important to keep your LinkedIn profile updated and full. Careers services at universities will often run workshops about how to tweak your LinkedIn page for maximum effect. Silverman suggests that you make the most out of the additional information that the social network allows you to share. “With LinkedIn you can show what books you’ve been reading, what events you’ve attended and what professional groups you’re in, and that’s useful for showing that you’re proactively engaged with things outside of your course.”
Blogs and Personal websites:
As well as demonstrating a genuine interest in your field, starting a blog can be a good way of establishing yourself as an expert in a certain area – if you can get the followers. But, says LBS's Bland, personal websites and blogs should be treated with caution. Financial services companies “try to take the emotion out of hiring decisions and have a very structured recruiting process.” He warns that many companies are looking for evidence of discretion and seriousness.
“In the nineties and noughties some people who weren’t natural bankers were drawn into the business, but banks want to hire the cleverest people who are motivated for the right reasons – which isn’t just financial reward.” If you blog, bear in mind that you have to show you have the right persona for the profession.